Executive officer ‘deemed to have resigned’ from SUSU.

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Union Council on Monday 13th December was an eventful one, for a variety of reasons. The surprises began early, with the announcement by chair James Miles that several Union Council officers were ‘deemed to have resigned’, having failed to send apologies to three meetings of either Council or a standing committee.

One of these people included Aaron Bali, Environment and Ethics Officer. This was a huge surprise to many in the room as Aaron is an Executive Officer and trustee of the Union. Executive Officers are part-time volunteers, elected along with the Sabbatical officers, who balance their role in the union with their studies. Aaron is well known around SUSU and puts in a lot of time behind the scenes trying to maintain and develop its environmental and ethical practices, work that is often unrecognised. Aaron was notified of his position ten minutes before the start of Council, without having received any prior warning that he had any ‘black marks’.

The constitution states ‘Non-attendance of Union officers at Union Council and other Standing Committees will be recorded in the minutes of that committee. Any Officer who fails to give apologies for a duly called meeting will receive a `black mark’. If an Officer fails to give apologies for non-attendance at three meetings, they will be deemed to have resigned from office. Should this occur for a Sabbatical Officer, their case will be referred to the disciplinary Committee for consideration.’ This section of the constitution is part of the new standing orders approved at last years AGM, and is only available to be seen at agm.susu.org.

However there is at present no warning systems in place and officers are unable to check how many ‘black marks’ they have. Similar problems have arisen in previous years; however at the time of writing there remains no facility for officers to check their ‘black mark’ status.

Aaron has said ‘I think it’s a shame that this is the way that members of this organisation choose to treat some of their hard working volunteers. They will never encourage engagement with the Union by dishing out punishments like this. Furthermore, there seems to have been little due process, as I was a volunteer. Clearly this would be unacceptable if I was paid for my position, but it somehow seems acceptable as I donate this time and effort for free’

The implications of being recalled for an officer are significant. An officer may re-run for election at the next Union Council, however in the meantime they will be unable to continue the work they have begun. Aaron has expressed his frustration at this and says: ‘For me it’s a bit of a nightmare as I can’t continue on with any of the work I’ve been doing until, at the very least, January at the next Union Council when the position is open for re-election. Given that there’s no guarantee I could win, it obviously means that more or less everything I’ve been doing will be stopped or delayed until such time as I can hand over to a new candidate.’

Outrage at Aaron’s treatment is widespread, and a facebook ‘Petition to reinstate Aaron Bali as Environment and Ethics officer at SUSU’ has already been launched stating ‘Aaron Bali was deemed to have resigned due to not having sent apologies for missing 3 standing committees. Aaron dedicates an overwhelming amount of his time to SUSU, and I can think of nobody who takes their duties more seriously. Aaron was given no warning of his dismissal, and was not made aware that such a system was in place.’

Union President, Billy FitzJohn, has said ‘I am extremely disappointed by what happened at council with regard to elected officers’ black marks at standing committees. I am determined to look at this very seriously as part of the larger review of our democratic processes -particularly Council that is already underway. I am also determined not to simply sweep what happened at council yesterday under the carpet and will be working on the best solution for now and in the future.’

Aaron has not yet decided if he will be re running for the position of Environment and Ethics Officer in January, and it remains to be seen if SUSU will be putting processes in place to prevent the loss of more valuable volunteers.

Union Council also approved a motion for the restructure of the Sabbatical positions.

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Discussion24 Comments

  1. avatar

    Just to let you know that the quote used from the constitution is out of date

    The new constitution which was ratified at the AGM states that

    Standing Order 10 – Discipline and Recall of Union Officers

    5.2 “Non-attendance of Union officers at Union Council and other Standing Committees will be recorded in the minutes of that committee. Any Officer who fails to give apologies for a duly called meeting will receive a `black mark’. If an Officer fails to give apologies for non-attendance at three meetings, they will be deemed to have resigned from office. Should this occur for a Sabbatical Officer, their case will be referred to the disciplinary Committee for consideration.”

    And under Standing Order 3 – Standing Committees

    1.13 “Each committee shall ensure that non-attendance is recorded in the minutes of that committee. The Chair shall ensure that any officer who fails to give apologies for a duly called meeting is dealt with under Standing Order 10”

    .

    Grace
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    5.2 as above is the quote used, and was checked with Billy before the article was submitted.

  2. avatar

    Erm….why is this news?

    Grace
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    Because the Wessex Scene is a student newspaper, written by and for the students of Southampton University. The loss of one of their voluntary representatives less than half way through the year was considered news worthy.

    John Jones
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    So why have you not bothered to list any of the other officers deemed to have resigned as some kind of monthly update on the workings at SUSU? Why is Aaron being shown preferential treatment?

    Grace
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    The other two officers were Phillip Marshall (mature students officer) and Robin Barker (Nursing and Midwifery officer), both were admin officers and neither appear to have been present at Union Council on Monday for comment. Aaron was an executive officer, and therefore a trustee of the union, and thus his forced resignation was more significant.

  3. avatar

    Executive officers have to do far more than admin officers, school presidents etc (not to knock the work they do at all), it is widely accepted that they do far more work than they are ever given credit for all as unpaid volunteers trying to do a degree. Whereas I understand the importance of the black mark system, the fact that Exec officers have the same limit of meetings, when most likely they’ll have far more meetings to attend, again while still having to attend lectures and so on, doesn’t really make sense. An admin officer of UCOM could plausibly miss three months worth of meetings (Council aside) before he is struck off, whereas an exec could potentially use up those three in less than a week. Sending apologies doesn’t take much time but when you have so many meetings, lectures, coursework and a life in general to consider, not to mention the work associated with the position, such as arranging things like Rag Week or E&E week, letting 3 meetings go by without apologies doesn’t seem like a sackable offense now does it? It wouldn’t at all surprise me if some of the meetings he missed were during the referendum either, when, I can personally attest, he was working hard for the union, which ever way you believe it should have went, the entire week.

    Tl;dr version: Aaron works bloody hard for SUSU, the sacking ridiculous.

  4. avatar

    It is so easy to tell someone going to the meeting you cannot make it or to spend 2 seconds sending an email!

    I think regardless of post and apparent dedication, if the constitution has stated him to have resigned, it must be enforced – otherwise we risk underminding the entire constitution and is it really dedicated to have missed 3 meetings and not bothered to give apologies?

    I hope that SUSU will do the right thing and advertise these now vacant posts to the ENTIRE student communnity rather than keeping it an in house secret, which i fear it will, to safe guard Aaron getting back into post!

    John Jones
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    I suspect this will happen Name. You can already see the biased coverage blatantly in favour of Aaron taking back his position by the way he is singled out as some kind of martyr. If other officers were also deemed to have resigned, can we not know who they were, or does that not support the clique of SUSU hacks’ agenda?

  5. avatar

    I agree with John Jones

    WHY IS THIS NEWS….

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

    If you want to look at a proper student news website go here

    http://live.cgcu.net/

    Reporting Live from their Senate meeting, talking about OUR Referendum. now of this parochial, inner union clique, wank

    Pete
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    Well lets not attack the whole website on the basis of one article.

    While I can see why this would look a bit cliquey, it is news that an exec officer who lost his position. I guess that’s not particularly common. If a government minister loses his position, that’s news in the real world media, so i don’t see anything wrong with reporting on this, which is pretty much a direct parallel in uni terms.

    I guess you could say the tone is a little personal and takes aaron’s side, but that’s within journalistic licence. If you want to see a proper student news website there are plenty of examples here.

    anon
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    Furthermore to Pete’s comment, if you don’t think this is particularly newsworthy, why not contribute something better yourself?

    That’s the whole point of student media, right?

  6. avatar

    A load of fuss over nothing. It’s nothing to make this go away. Union council could, if they wished, vote to void the resignation at the next meeting.

    I would also say that the president, depending on his interpretation of the constitution could reinstate Aaron to his various responsibilities until such time when a successor is appointed or he is reinstated.

    Like the old saying goes “the rules are made to be voided at a later date by a subsequent council.”

  7. avatar

    Rules is rules. You’d complain more if the constitution wasn’t enforced. The rule might be unreasonable, but it is the rule, so should be enforced. You should work on changing the rule and using this opportunity to point out how unfair it is and how it should be amended rather than complain and say he was ‘sacked’

    Aaron Bali
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    Anon,

    Point taken on rules being rules. But this example has highlighted (or at least, I think so) a problem with the implementation of the rules that could be amended. And you’re right when you say it should be amended. So that’s what I’ve been pushing for over the past couple of days to prevent this kind of circumstance occurring again.

    I met with Billy earlier this week to suggest a few alternatives for how this could be resolved. I think the best idea that I could come up with was to have Union Council go to a vote after a person was deemed to have three black marks, rather than assume an instant resignation. I feel that this, in addition to a proper system or warning will allow the constitution to be upheld while maintaining the intention of that rule (to stop students from filling officer vacancies and then not attending).

    It seems from reading Billy’s proposal below that reform for this system is going to be on the agenda, which is promising.

    Aaron Bali

    Macro
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    “The rule might be unreasonable, but it is the rule, so should be enforced.” – What a stupid thing to say.

  8. avatar

    Dear all,

    Since releasing my statement i have looked at the situation and i have made a proposal to Council before it next meets, in which any decision made will then have to be ratified at the next meeting of Council.

    To see this proposal in full visit my blog at –

    http://blogs.susu.org/sabbs/2010/12/15/transparent-black-marks/

    As i stated earlier, this is part of a larger review of our democratic processes of Council, but what happened at Council earlier in the week must not be swept under the carpet.

    Thanks,

    Billy

    John Jones
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    I have to say, I think its disgraceful if you’re going to bow to pressure on the basis that one of the Officers in question is popular within the union cliques. You should be carrying out your duty as President of SUSU and supporting the SUSU Constitution.

    Excuse me if I have misread your proposal to Councillors, but it seems you are avoiding the public scrutiny of Council and going via the back door to reinstall these officers, which I regard as a derogation of duty.

    If what has happened is wrong, put forward a motion at Council to amend the Constitution. In the mean time, you are required to fulfil your obligations to it. I hope you will advertise these positions as open to the entire student body, and not keep them closed so that you can welcome back the people in question without a formal debate.

    name
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    The proposal is just that; to change the Constitution. The reason it is being done over email is so that action can be taken before the end of term so that change to the constitution is made as quickly as possible.

    I wouldn’t say that Billy is avoiding the public scrutiny of council as he’s made the proposal available here, emailed it out to councillors, and would then have to ratify it at the next council if it does get passed. I don’t think there’s anything going on behind closed doors here.

    Vincent
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    Having the issue explained on the wessex scene, officially raised on the sabbs blog, on the first page of the susu website, and adressed at council is not exactly what I call swept under the carpet…

    The black marks system is here to avoid inactive officers keeping their position. In this case it has not worked as intended and needs to be fixed. That an officer missed three meetings in the weeks were all the deadlines are due doesn’t IMO seem sufficient for considering him as resigned, especially with the referendum campaigning that took some time at the worst moment in terms of academic work.

    If people aren’t happy with his work as officer, I suppose there are some ways in SUSU constitution to get him replaced, and that are intended for this.

  9. avatar

    If you look at the number of thumbs up, they are mostly found for comments not supporting this article and calling for true justice.

    The thumbs down come for those that agree some apparent injustice has occurred.

    Surely this speaks loud and clear of the student opinion, and all we are doing is leaving the choice up to an obviously biased group whos few opinions do not reflect that of the entire student body.

    What a shame.

    Vincent
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    13 thumbs up on a comment doesn’t really look like a huge plebiscit from the whole student body…

    Besides my last post goes against your crave for “true justice” and has an amazing 100% thumbs up. What do we do now? 😉

    Your “biased group” has been elected by the whole student body last year, and I hardly doubt everybody supports everybody in the SUSU comitee, so I think we’re still far from a cooptation system.

    I maintain what I’ve said: If people are not happy with Aaron’s job, I am sure there are rules in SUSU constitution to have him resigned. I don’t think having a volunteer kicked out for not showing up at three meetings in the worst weeks in the year in terms of workload is why this rule was implemented.

  10. avatar

    The council is not exactly the flame of democracy. The student body didn’t vote in favour of them all as most students did not even vote.

    Moreover, majority of the positions filled had one person running or were elected in SUSU council where students have no vote and little voice. I don’t see how that can be called the student body choice rather than the top dictating to the bottom.

    To the point of meetings, people are not forced to attend as SUSU is aware that most people do “volunteer” in their roles. All they ask is that they send apologies for the meetings so they do not avoid their responsibilities that they chose to do. All this entails is a simple reply to an e-mail inviting you to such meeting. Anyway, it’s good manners to inform them if you are turning up or not due to the other “volunteers” putting in the effort in the first place.

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